TrainingTransfer your swimming skills to open water events

March 29, 2017

Kevin Clark is a nationally recognized coach and Head Coach of the Edmonton Triathlon Academy.  He will be contributing monthly with some triathlon training advice:

I will begin this article with a brief explanation on the training principles I use to guide my coaching process as well as open skills versus closed skills relating to triathlon swimming needs.

Training principals (Specificity / Transfer / Overload / Individuality / Progression / Reversibility)

Anyone with practical experience of sports know, if only intuitively, that an exercise cannot improve athletic movements unless the two movements are similar. The degree of similarity between the two is known as “specificity”. If specificity is guaranteed, the exercise and the sporting movement influence one another – this is known as “transfer”. It is also common knowledge that, in order for transfer to the sporting movement to occur, the body must be given a training stimulus it is not yet equipped to deal with – this is known as “overload”. The adaptation process is highly individual, varying from athlete to athlete – this is known a “individuality”. To continue the adaptation process, the system must be “progressively loaded”. The effect is only temporary; if athletes stop training for extended periods of time, the training effects vanish – this is known as “reversibility”. Finally, the degree of adaptation as a result of training (including strength training) is reduced as athletes training histories
lengthen and their level of training increase – this is known as “the law of diminishing returns”. The better you become the less the percentage gains you will experience!

Open skills versus closed skills

A key distinction is made in sport between open and closed skills. A closed skill is a movement
pattern in which the movements to be made are predetermined – the environment in which they are made is unchanging. With open skills, the environment is not unchanging, and the movement must therefore be adapted (improvised) in response to the demands of the environment at that moment. I write this only to try help in a small way to get out of doing drills that won’t transfer to certain parts of our sport and we should be open to questioning our programs design. Closed skill drills done below race pace in a single file pool lane is not specific to swimming in Hawrelak Park. Monotony kills adaptation and interest. Can you breath on both sides at competition speeds? Can you adapt your recovery arm swing if there is no space are two open skills to master in pack swimming. If you want to make drills transfer in race performances try putting them under time pressure on a repeat send off time or make a competition out of the drill for fun.

ETA athletes preparing for North American Junior Championships

The Edmonton Triathlon Academy has the “Gomez Challenge” named after 5-time world champion Javier Gomez of Spain. I watched him swim 8×100 on 1.30 cycle in a 50m long course pool as follows:

  • 25m left arm pull with opposite arm at side/25m right arm pull /50m freestyle swim.

He did this comfortably! We also do the 100m Gomez time trial with an ETA club record of 1.09. Try it out to see how great your World champion skills are. Most people have to give maximum efforts just to make the 1.30 cycle.

Identify which section of the swim race in Hawrelak park is more open-skill based and how much is closed-skill dominant. Decide how much time you need to invest in open/closed skills without losing your strengths in the process.The lifeguards at the Kinsmen Centre and Peter Hemmingway are very helpful if you treat them with respect they deserve and be nice to them.

Enjoy. KC


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